An age of conflict
John A. Braun
How many words for conflict do we have in English? Do we have more in English than others have in German, Farsi, or Chinese? I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I do know that conflict is universal.
We don’t like conflict and seek to avoid it at all costs. It’s not just global or national conflicts on a large scale. We don’t relish conflict even on the personal level of our daily lives. Yet conflict plagues us like the symptoms of a deadly disease.
What do we find about conflict in our own families? Children are pitted against parents. Husbands and wives against each other. One household against another to the point that they refuse to be in the same room at family gatherings. Domestic violence remains a challenge for victims and those who try to intervene, including the police.
And, of course, the pictures of conflict in our society is even more brutal. Drive-by shootings. Road rage that escalates into gunfire and death. Bombings by those who hold to ideas different from their targets. In-your-face standoffs marked by a chorus of chants and taunts over political differences.
What is the source of all this conflict? The easy answer for us Christians is that the deadly disease that infects us is sin, and that’s true. Yet that seems like a pat answer that requires no real thought and leaves us with no chance to bring peaceful solutions.
In this world of conflict, Jesus places his disciples to be “peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). What is a peacemaker to do in this age of conflict? The first thing is to recognize the disease within. Our sinful nature persists even after we know Jesus. It will become angry and push us toward violence. Turn back. Repent. Remember how Jesus was wronged and yet did not retaliate. None of us is very far from being carried away by our anger. Let his peace flow from you rather than your anger.
A peacemaker also understands that violence is not a solution. In a marriage, in family life, with siblings, or in a dispute over even greater issues, violence is not an answer to conflict. When Jesus talked about peacemakers, he also suggested humility, a desire for righteousness, mercy, and purity of heart. Seek those qualities, and, I believe, it will help provide an atmosphere to find a solution.
The vision of a peacemaker is also broader than church and family. God directed Jeremiah to seek the peace and prosperity of Babylon (Jeremiah 29:7). Our attitudes tempered by the love of God in Christ make us citizens who not only want peace for ourselves but also for others, even those who disagree with us. Oppose violence. Let the love of Christ be your beacon in this world—a light that others can see.
So the solution to conflict is not destroying or intimidating those who think differently nor is it creating an equality of opinions. Ideas are not all equal, true, or valuable. We simply cannot give up our Christian convictions. I have some strong positions about moral and religious issues. I will not give them up unless, as Luther said before the Diet of Worms, “I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason.” But I will not use violence to advance any of those convictions. Some of Luther’s early followers felt that they should advance the cause of the Reformation by force, but Luther corrected them. He reminded them that they were not to use force in spreading the gospel (cf. Luther’s Invocavit sermons).
It’s a tall order, but be peacemakers.
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Author: John A. Braun
Volume 102, Number 5
Issue: May 2015
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